05:00PM, Friday 24 December 2021
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Magnet flats approved despite displeasure
Despite widespread displeasure about the appearance of the new apartment buildings alongside the town hall, councillors last week approved more of the same, voting five to four on party lines for more than 400 uninspiring flats on the Magnet site.
Our council currently appears to measure success merely in numbers; housing targets must be met.
But where’s the sense of pride or place? And what about the community?
The Berkshire volume of Buildings of England notes: “Modern Maidenhead is not immediately attractive.”
With a few exceptions, like the remarkable improvements at Chapel Arches and York Stream, this is true.
But instead of trying to redress the balance and restore the town as a place to go for everyone, more than 2,000 flats have been approved already and there are more to come.
Our compact town centre is set to be dominated by uninviting edifices, some soaring to 11, 17 and even 25 floors.
It’s time to get the politics out of planning and, with community involvement, determine a holistic plan before it’s too late.
Chairman, Maidenhead Civic Society
Mysterious opposition to common sense
So I read in last week’s Advertiser that Adam Afriyie, the MP for Windsor, is against so-called vaccine passports and Theresa May, who is allegedly MP for Maidenhead, abstained in the Commons vote.
On his Twitter feed it was reported that Adam Afriyie said: “Vaccine passports would usher in an authoritarian state that unfairly discriminates against minority groups, takes control of our bodies and forces people to show their papers on demand.” Seriously?
No, Mr Afriyie, the only minority group such controls discriminate against is The Total Idiots and Selfish B******s group.
The group of people who probably also insist on their inalienable right to shop in crowded supermarkets and travel on public transport without masks.
One of the reasons I believe this vile virus has spread so quickly in the UK as opposed to many other parts of the developed world, is a misguided belief that individual rights should always trump community rights.
Of course it’s awful that any of us should have to suffer any restrictions to our personal freedoms.
But as the old saying goes, ‘needs must when the devil drives’.
In the Second World War, people were, I believe, forced to black out their windows to avoid Nazi bombers being able to target them.
Presumably Mr Afriyie would have said that was an unjustified restriction on people’s personal freedoms?
Of course, Mr Afriyie is unfortunately not alone in his mysterious opposition to common sense, particularly amongst Tory MPs.
And finally, our lacklustre MP, Mrs May actually abstained I see.
Maybe she was too busy judging a children’s Christmas card competition or something.
When will people just stop voting on auto-pilot, saying things like ‘I’ve always voted Conservative, so I’m for Theresa…’?
MALCOLM JAMES STRETTEN
Council should be doing what residents want
Viewpoint last week had two interesting letters.
One from Andrew Hill clearly explained the problem underlying the ongoing problems with the BLP.
The plan bases its need for housing on 2102 population data that is hopelessly out of date with population growth predictions that have not materialised.
The OAN Mr Hill references – and the two re-visits made by Cllr Coppinger’s department to this topic in 2016 and 2019 – hopelessly overstate the housing need in the borough.
In project planning terms seen as best practice in industry this would be recognised as the fatal flaw of ‘RIRO’ – rubbish in, rubbish out.
The BLP is, fundamentally, unsound.
The second letter from council leader Andrew Johnson was a plaintive cry for ‘deliverable solutions and alternatives’.
Withdraw the existing BLP and start again, this time using accurate and up-to-date inputs and allowing proper time for review and comment by the public (this was a slog last time – remember the comment period over Christmas holidays in 2016?).
Ensure the new BLP respects and implements the climate emergency principles already adopted by the council.
With an almost certain lower OAN for housing in a new BLP, the council could stop building even more (unwanted) flats on the Magnet site and use it to develop affordable 2-3 bed townhouses on the site.
There may be a case to use some of the existing golf course site nearest the town centre in the same way, retaining the bulk of the golf course as the laudable Great Park for us all.
The borough should be building homes residents need and want – not allowing developers to control the agenda.
This may not help bail the council out of its budget problem – probably the main driver for selling the golf course in the first place – but it is time our council started doing what residents want not what is expedient to correct their previous, myriad, blunders.
Longer term of course the solution is to elect independent councillors free from central office party dogma who are willing to actually do what residents want.
Our local Lib Dems offer no solution; I could never vote for a party with principles that allow them to embrace a rejected Tory councillor with a nefarious past into their fold, avoiding a by-election.
If RBWM residents want change and real democracy they will have to fight for it.
In the meantime let’s hope Cllr Johnson sees sense and acts to save our borough.
The borough local plan isn’t behind us yet
It’s pantomime time of year.
Cllr Coppinger broadcast ‘the plan is sound’, then tried a wriggle ‘the inspector has completed her examination’.
Not trusting any proclamation, I again contacted the inspector’s office.
This week’s response: “I can confirm that the Inspector is still in the process of considering the representations and producing her final report”!
Oh Yes It Is…Oh No It Isn’t.
The refrain continues.
Can we trust the statements ‘the plan is set in stone’ and ‘the plan is fixed at a point in time, and that time is passed’ (watch the May 27 RBWM cabinet meeting on YouTube, 44 mins in)?
Well not according to 6.1 of the Local Plan examination guidance, that allows for new evidence and requires ’fairness’, or according to the Inspectorate’s response, that left open the possibility for a future hearing.
If Mr Hill was correct, in last week’s Viewpoint, that the real housing need is 7,000 not 1,4000 and we have already built (or in process) the 7,000, it follows there is no requirement, other than a type rebalance, for any further dwelling build to 2033.
So why plan to build on the golf course, Cookham greenbelt or anywhere?
Is money the reason?
That’s not a BLP justification.
I encourage anyone with new BLP evidence of illegality or unsoundness, to submit it immediately, this next week, directly to the inspector, copying any relevant pantomime cast members.
Waste problems remain despite what’s claimed
Some weeks ago I recall reading a letter in the Advertiser from Cllr Coppinger, in which he stated that the waste collection problems caused by the Conservatives' ill-advised switch to Serco had all been resolved.
Good news... if it were true.
As things stand, a year or more after the switch happened, our road still has numerous, ongoing problems with its waste collection:
Several residents have made attempts to resolve these issues with RBWM, including through its complaints procedure, all to no avail.
In one case (and at this rate, probably others) the council is now being referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for its apparent refusal to provide an adequate waste collection service.
If this is what RBWM thinks success looks like, I'd hate to see failure.
WH, on behalf of Lynton Green residents
Bin changes don’t seem to be cost-neutral
I understood the council’s response to questions about cost implications of the new fortnightly collection was ‘neutral’ when some residents asked if we would get a rebate on our council tax.
Well, in the report that went to cabinet last week it states ‘to deliver the collection model of the (new) fortnightly general waste collection, recycling and food waste weekly and green waste fortnightly the contractor required SIX additional waste vehicles and is requesting to vire (move) £220k of capital budget from another project’.
This leads me to ask where is the additional money coming from to pay the contractor to employ an additional 18 members of staff (assuming three per vehicle)?
They certainly won’t drive and empty the bins by themselves, or are they gifts hanging on the RBWM's Christmas tree?
I estimate these extra 18 staff, fuel and running expenses to be around half a million pounds.
So will these new vehicles be environmentally-friendly?
Sounds to me it would have been cheaper to stay with our old ‘weekly’ collection and it would certainly please residents.
Of course I apologise if I misunderstood the council’s response and in fact this is cost-neutral.
Yet another noise spike from night flights
Last week Andrew Hall wrote about the need to prevent noise spikes from Heathrow night flights with an aircraft at 1.30am on Saturday, December 11 causing a noise spike of 30dB over Datchet, Windsor, Slough, Burnham and Maidenhead (Viewpoint, December 16).
Then this week, five days later at 1.10am on Thursday, December 16 they did it again.
They sent another flight over Datchet, Eton, Slough and Burnham causing a noise spike from an ambient 30dB to 73dB.
As Mr Hall noted it is the spikes that cause sleep disturbance.
And when flights take off in the other direction, how many night flights are Heathrow sending over heavily populated West London?
In the interests of residents' health and well-being, these night flights need to stop.
There is a nightflights consultation currently under review.
The World Health Organisation recommends that we get eight hours sleep a night, and more for teenagers and younger children.
We need a nighttime curfew from 22:00 to 6:00 or from 23:00 to 7:00 every night.
Tithe Barn Drive
Between Windsor and Maidenhead